Trials & Litigation

Family of slain law grad Lauren Giddings files wrongful death suit

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The family of a Georgia law graduate allegedly slain by a neighbor and law school classmate two years ago has filed a wrongful death suit seeking answers about the case.

Although jailed suspect Stephen McDaniel doesn’t have any money and isn’t likely to, the family wants answers about what happened to Lauren Giddings and hopes to search a 63-acre farm in Pike County owned by McDaniel’s grandfather, said Giddings’ father, Billy. Investigators never did so, and “I still would like to have cadaver dogs search that,” he told the Telegraph.

The suit, filed Monday in federal court in Macon, seeks more than $5 million in damages, asserting claims for wrongful death, intentional infliction of emotional distress and interference with right of burial, WMGT reports.

Giddings’ sister, Kaitlyn Wheeler, told the station in an email: “My parents and I are dedicated to pursuing every avenue the law allows to seek justice for my sister and find out exactly what happened here. In addition to an opportunity to get answers, a civil judgment against McDaniel will ensure he never profits from what he did to my sister.”

McDaniel’s criminal lawyers declined comment about the merits of the case when contacted by the Telegraph and WMGT, although one of his attorneys, Franklin Hogue, told the station civil suits typically are about money. McDaniel has pleaded not guilty in the criminal case, which has not yet gone to trial.

The family settled an earlier suit, with the insurer for the apartment building in which Giddings and McDaniel both lived, for less than $1 million, the Telegraph notes.

The dismembered torso of Giddings, 27, was found in June 2011 in a trash can in the building. McDaniel, like Giddings, had just earned his juris doctor degree from Mercer University and was continuing to live in Macon, Ga., while he studied for the bar exam. He was charged in August 2011 with felony murder.

The federal suit says McDaniel had a master key to apartments in the building, stole a thumb drive containing photos of Giddings from her apartment prior to her death and used a vacant apartment below hers to store her torso. It also alleges that a college roommate of McDaniel’s said he talked of doing the “perfect murder,” and said that after dismembering his victim, he would “scatter the parts through the woods so that no one would ever find them.”

See also: “Classmate of Slain Mercer Law Grad Faces Felony Murder Charge, But Questions Still Remain” “Slain Mercer Law Grad Was a Friend to Many, Including the Classmate Now Charged with Her Murder” “Suspect in Killing of Mercer Law Grad Had Talked of a Perfect Murder, Police Say” “Judge Nixes $850K Bail Reduction for Law Grad Accused in Dismemberment Slaying of Mercer Classmate”

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